I just realized that this is the fourth year in a row I am writing on dengue prevention (last year I wrote this). But I had a scare a few weeks ago, when I was suspected of having dengue (it turned out to be food poisoning and fever). And another friend had a dengue attack just weeks before a church Christmas production (he got well, thank goodness). Both cases reminded me that dengue is still out there
2013 was a year when dengue cases were very high. NEA projects that dengue cases this year could go up to 30,000. That is higher than the record in 2013 when 22,170 cases were reported.
Already the weekly cases from Jan – Mar were much more than compared to 2015. That is not a good way to start 2016. Apparently this is due to El Nino causing warmer weather conditions, high mosquito population and a change of the main circulating virus. Warm conditions make mozzies breed and mature faster. It's like a summer honeymoon for them.
Go check out the dengue clusters from dengue.gov.sg, and see that many of the hotspots are in residential areas. Because a majority of mosquito breeding habitats are found in homes.
Our homes, people. The mozzies are breeding in our homes and disrespecting us!
It's such a serious situation that the big stick is coming down. At this year's Mozzie Wipeout campaign launch, the NEA announced a step up in enforcement measures — any homes found with mosquito breeding are liable for a fine, as opposed to only those found in dengue clusters. Nobody likes to be fined but tough times need tough measures.
But besides enforcement, NEA is also deploying gravitraps to monitor and suppress mosquito population, as well as drones to check for mosquito breeding in areas that are hard to reach. There are also breakthroughs in dengue vaccines that are being tested for viability for use in Singapore.
I would like to see those drones in action myself. That's pretty cool use of tech.
So please please please lah, help yourself and your family and help your neighbours and do your part.
Doing the Mozzie Wipeout is very easy: Turn the pail, flip the plate, tip the vase, cap the pole holder, clear the gutter. So catchy, maybe I should write another Mozzie Wipeout song like I did last time.
I didn't manage to get on TV news with the new Minister this year (heng ah, I have a tendency of photobombing these events hor?) but I still say: dengue must die. So do the 5-Step Mozzie Wipeout. Stop the breeding, you stop the dengue transmissions, it is as simple as that.
Faith has a growing list of songs that she likes. She can’t sing the words, being non-verbal and severely autistic, but like any other teen, she has her favorites and we only find out when she starts to vocalize or hum the tunes.
Faith’s latest jam is Fight Song by Rachel Platten. She’s been humming the tune over the weekend.
I thought the lyrics were very interesting for a non-verbal autistic 15-year-old girl, even if she may or may not understand the words.
“This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
’Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”
As her parents, I wonder if the song is also a reminder for us to always keep fighting for her. God knows there are days we don’t feel like we have any fight left in us.
But Faith is our Fight Song.
[Top photo is Faith running to the living room to wear her shoes and accompany Mommy to pick Joy up from tuition. She was a little annoyed that Mommy wouldn't let her have the iPhone. But yet keen to wear her shoes to go out. Just like a teenager.]
I wanted very much to like this movie. I did. But I am sorry. On hindsight, you can tell how the movie will turn out just from the title alone.
Firstly the movie, like the title, is long. Too long. It just dragged on and on. It took forever for the two heroes to fight. And then that fight wasn't the end of it. We still had the big bad guy to fight. Then Wonder Woman showed up. Then there was the post-fight. "When will this movie end?" you will ask.
Secondly, the movie tried to do too much and ended up doing nothing. Like the title tells you, there is Batman. There is Superman. There is Dawn of something. There is a Justice League movie coming (actually two parts). So, like a Hong Kong Chinese New Year ensemble movie, cameos and Easter Eggs are all over the place. You end up with a rojak of a movie without a proper story being told. Just a bunch of string of setups for the coming universe.
Thirdly, as the title tells you, this is a very serious movie. Serious serious serious. Don't-bring-your-kid-to-watch-it serious. Many-people-die and Terrorism-is-referenced serious.
Seriously. Does anybody have any FUN at all in the movie? Ok, maybe Lex Luthor. But even his motivations are serious. And he is kind of annoying.
There were bright spots. I enjoyed seeing Wonder Woman. I yayed when she showed up. She was the only character the didn't have any major angst or brooded. She was just straight up badass and whoop-ass. Gal Gadot was so much better here than in Furious 7. All hail Wonder Woman.
Although my wife still thinks Lynda Carter is still the best.
I also enjoyed some of the fight scenes. Batman's vehicles and his Superman-Buster suit were very impressive to see in action.
Oh. If it bothered you that Superman kills in Man of Steel, you'll need to know that Batman kills too, in this movie. A lot. And uses guns. And shoots bad guys with said guns. For some, that's even more sacrilegious than seeing Supes kill Zod in the first movie.
Batman shooting people with guns. It's almost like watching Deadpool, except without the humour.
Yes, I know, I know, Batman has bent his No Guns and No Taking a Life rules in the comics before. But in this movie, it's almost as if he never had those rules. He's just straight up Rambo.
I think if you read many DC comics, you will enjoy this movie and be able to call out all the links and Easter Eggs. But for a general audience, you're just going to be lost. Like my wife, who needed me to explain more than half the movie to her.
Maybe we shouldn't let Zack Snyder direct any more superhero movies. If you didn't like Man of Steel, you won't like this one either.
We get it. Cavill's Superman is a modern-day Jesus (oh look we opened over Easter, so clever!). He is godlike and brooding. Affleck's Batman is also brooding, and angry, and seething. Two angry and brooding mama's boys in one movie.
You almost wish they would beat each other into a pulp and then we can reboot Batman and Superman yet again. Or just proceed with Woman Woman alone.
If you still want to watch this, I would recommend the IMAX version. The epic fight scenes do look grander on the IMAX screen.
Maybe I will rewatch Nolan's Batman series. Batman v Superman makes the Nolan trilogy feel lighthearted and fun now. And at least some of it takes place during the day.
I stayed up till 3am for you. Here, a roundup of the new Apple announcements:
-New 4-inch iPhone SE a.k.a. Baby iPhone 6s (16GB and 64GB). Now those of you with small hands and really like tiny toy-like phones have a powerful new option.
-New 9.7-inch iPad Pro a.k.a. Baby iPad Pro with new Smart Keyboard (effectively bye bye, iPad Air 2). I am most excited about this since it is a lighter version of the huge 12.9-inch iPad Pro. At less than 500 grams, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro should be a great travel iPad Pro. Also, the same four-speaker awesomeness for movies and music on the go.
-256GB configurations for both 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros. Now this I like a lot. I already use up my 128GB often.
-New Lightning to USB 3 Camera kit and SD card reader. The former is very cool to me as it opens up the Lightning port to more power-hungry USB devices.
-New nylon and metal straps for Apple Watch. Gotta love that black Milanese strap.
-iOS 9.3 with Touch-ID password protection for Notes app. This is awesome. I can now store sensitive info in Notes. Like the secret drawings of my new Iron Man suit.
I watched the 9.7-inch iPad Pro announcement on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro: iPadProception.
Yes, I know the iPhone SE stands for Special Edition but why couldn’t Apple name it iPhone Boaty McBoatface? I'd buy an iPhone McBoatface.
Also cool, Singapore gets a mention on the use of solar panels for Apple in Singapore.
I am usually the one who writes about Faith on her birthday. But this year, my wife wrote something on her own Facebook account which expressed our feelings more beautifully. So I am going to share her thoughts about being the mother of our firstborn, who has autism.
Today is Faith‘s 15th birthday. It‘s been a long journey. Like all 15s, they have their growing pains. There are much angst, emotions and other issues. It makes it sadder when any 15 year old have to brace more than they should. Some have to deal with broken family issues, loss of loved ones, physical disabilities and so much more.
You‘ll be surprised how resilient some of our kids are. Sometimes they carry more than us adults think we are bearing. Sometimes they even have to be stronger than us so that we can feel better.
I admire my little Faith. She has to be stronger than any normal teenager. She has to brace herself every day just to overcome the small normal things we make her do everyday. It takes so much from her, to force herself to overcome the overwhelming sensory experience just to get a normal task completed, things we take for granted for, things we complain and gripe about.
For reaching 15, I celebrate with Faith on this special day.
She has done so well and I know she will do better with so much love her school teachers and my families have given her. I am forever grateful for the love, patience and time spent on her.
My Faith is strong. My Faith is beautiful. Happy birthday my little girl! You will always be my little girl and a very resilient one. We are so proud of you!
(In the previous episode, my mother and I are on a mother-son trip to Japan. We traveled by train from Tokyo to Aomori, planning to continue our journey to Hokkaido by slow train. Yes, I know we could have flown but that would be boring. Or waited for the launch of the Hokkaido Shinkansen due to launch in late March. But time and tide waits for no man… and his mother.)
We crossed over from Aomori, Honshu to Hokkaido via Hakodate and then took the train all the way to Sapporo where we spent two nights. The coastal view from the train ride was awesome, as the train took us through cities like Noboribetsu and Tomakokai.
Mom and I ate our fair share of Sapporo ramen and even did touristy things like riding the giant ferris wheel. These ferris wheels are in every major Japanese city I've been. Tokyo has one, Yokohama has one Nagoya has one, and Sapporo has one. It must be a thing.
For ¥600, it wasn't too bad an experience. We got quite a good view of Sapporo by night.
With Sapporo as our base, we took an unplanned random day trip to Otaru.
In Otaru, we ended up in Tenguyama, or 天狗山, because we jumped into the wrong bus. We wanted to take the stroller bus to town but got on the Tenguyama bus instead. But it turned out to be the right choice. After a ride on the ropeway, we discovered that the view up there was pretty spectacular. There was also a sizable skiing and snowboarding crowd.
Otaru is a touristy town but nice nonetheless. We took another bus and we ended up at the Sakaimachi shopping street. We resisted buying the glass souvenirs but caved in to some ice cream cones and dried cuttlefish.
Part of the reason we felt full was because everywhere we went along the street, there were food samples handed out. You can get pretty full just eating samples. Ahem.
From Sapporo we rode a train to Furano. We didn't expect it to be so quiet. Perhaps it was the end of the winter season, or folks went to the ski resort nearby instead.
But we didn't mind. It was a nice, quiet and beautiful town. The only challenge was finding dinner on a Sunday night. In the dead of winter. In deserted snow-covered streets.
After some walking, we found a drug store open and we bought instant noodles and drinks for dinner, just in case. We looked like a bunch of desperate fugitives stocking up on supplies for a mad dash to freedom.
But after we left the drug store, we did manage to find a yakiniku restaurant run by a mother and daughter team, and boy, did mom and I have a feast.
"Where are we going tomorrow ah?" asked mom, between bites of the giant prawns and scallop.
"Dunno leh," I said, my mouth filled with bibimbap and grilled pork.
That night, I did some research and declared, "Tomorrow we shall go and visit the town of Biei and see the famed Blue Pond!"
Tomorrow came and we set forth on a train to Biei. Only to discover that the Blue Pond was closed for maintenance and dredging works till April. We weren't the only ones who discovered Aoike was closed. Two young men armed with a tripod and their camera bags found out while waiting for the bus from Biei Station. At least we found out at the station itself.
No fear, such hiccups never deter my mother and me. We sallied forth to Shirogane Waterfall at Shirogane Onsen. The kind lady at the tourist office told us the waters there were ALSO blue and worth a visit even in winter.
A 30-minute bus ride later, we were there and yes, it was a lovely waterfall. Walking to the bridge that overlooks it took a bit of work though, as the ground was covered in snow and ice. My mother and I looked like penguins trying to walk without slipping.
As we took the bus back to Biei (which has way more attractions during the other seasons), we had to decide where else to spend our day.
Over a quick lunch of chicken stew (which was oh so lovely) in Biei, I picked Aibetsu, famed for its mushrooms and a shrine. Why didn't we go to Asahikawa, a bigger city with a famous zoo with its penguin march? Because my mother and I are rebels and like to go to ulu places and see quaint towns.
Also, mom has seen penguins march elsewhere before and says Singapore has a great zoo already.
Hey, who am I to argue with the woman who gave birth to me, right? So off we went, and jumped onto the infrequent train along the Sekihoku line to see "mushroom town".
Well, let me just say, Aibetsu is really really quiet. So quiet that the station had no staff present (perhaps because it was winter). And we proceeded to trudge through more snow for about a kilometre to the shrine, crossing the Aibetsu Bridge that crossed the Ishikari River.
We got a little lost along the way but found ourselves in a centre for training handicapped people for jobs. They had freshly baked An Pan buns and other pastries. All handmade. And freshly-made coffee. We made friends with the staff there and they directed us to the shrine, which was just behind their building.
After the Aibetsu shrine visit, we walked back to the station again, but this time powered by coffee and An Pan buns. We sat in the empty Aibetsu Station, seeking warmth from the furnace, while waiting for the 4.22pm train. Miss that train and the next train is after 7pm.
We decided it was enough for the day, and retired to our Furano hotel, ready for our next destination. But before that, there is laundry to be done, and I am the professional travel laundry person in the family.
My ¥300 laundromat awaits. Also, typing this on my iPhone while sitting on the toilet has made my left leg dead. Sayonara for now.
If updates are sporadic, I apologize because I'm traveling from Tokyo to Hokkaido with my mother, a retired teacher. We've so far traveled by train from Tokyo to Aomori, the northern part of Honshu and we are now in at Hakodate, southernmost Hokkaido.
I have discovered that your mother may leave the teaching profession but you cannot take the teacher out of your mother. She has a curious mind and because she taught geography and art, this trip brings out all her knowledge and love of her subjects.
It's been fifty years since mom came to Japan. Her first and only trip to Japan before this, was her honeymoon with my late father. And now she is traveling here with me. It's like a full circle.
Aomori by night.
Mom taking a photo with the Aomori market folks..
Aomori Fish Market.
Mom is never shy about asking for a photo with total strangers.
Aomori covered with snow. It is -2°C to 0°C here on this day.